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Friday, February 23, 2024

In microphone gaffe, Health chief Duque told to ‘see psychiatrists’ at DOH

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UNLIKE the tense House hearing earlier where Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III was reduced to tears, unexpected light moments punctuated Wednesday’s 6-hour Senate Blue Ribbon hearing on the Commission on Audit (COA) report on Department oh Health’s (DOH) “deficiencies” in managing P67-billion pandemic response funds.

At one point, Duque, apparently wearied by the to-and-fro between his agency and DBM over the fund release data, forgot to turn off his microphone after Senator Richard Gordon gave him pause to look for some data.

Duque was overheard blurting out something while Gordon was onscreen explaining the fine distinctions between “appropriation” and “allocation”…etc.

Ano ba ‘yun? Nagulo na ‘yung utak ko, hindi ko na alam kung….” [What was that about? My brain’s fogging, I don’t know if…], asked Duque, who was apparently “lost” after Gordon asked him to react to issues surrounding the fund releases, since the DOH and DBM were tossing blame to each other. Duque was apparently asking other officials who were with him what Gordon was referring to.

Gordon, realizing Duque’s gaffe, paused from his mini-lecture and said, poker-faced, apparently addressing Duque: “Marami kayong psychiatrist dyan sa DOH, pagamot ka muna diyan [You have so many psychiatrists there in the DOH]…We also have psychosocial services in the Senate.”

Gordon then continued, “I know it is very stressful to work in the government so, please make sure that you get it done. You know, I consider you a friend but I have to be…my loyalty is to my country first before my loyalty to my friend. This accountability is a significant phase of the budget cycle because it ensures that the government funds have been effectively and efficiently utilize to achieve the state’s socio-economic goals,” Gordon said.

Earlier, Gordon, while grilling officials, ferreted out one point: that a huge part of the delays in HCW benefits stemmed from the fact that DBM only released funds to DOH five days before the lapse of Bayanihan 1.

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee’s hearing, chaired by Gordon, focused initially on the hazard pay and special risk allowance (SRAs) of health-care workers (HCWs) deployed in the Covid-19 response, given widespread complaints of HCWs in both the public and private hospitals that they did not receive these, despite being mandated by the Bayanihan to Heal as One law.

Despite Duque’s microphone mishap, the meeting ended on a civil note, with Gordon telling Duque to make sure all the needed data are available at the next hearing on August 25.

Read full article on BusinessMirror

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